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Cognition and Emotion: Interactions and Contextual Expansions

Summary of Each Article

In the article “The Nature and Organization of Individual Differences in Executive Functions: Four General Conclusions” the authors, Miyake and Friedman (2012) sought to summarize the available research, at the time, on executive functions (EFs). The authors conducted the research to investigate the inherent differences in EFs based on their biological and cognitive underlying justifications. The concept of EFs was evaluated based on a theoretical framework that the authors have developed (the unity/diversity model) to draw conclusions. Assessing individual differences in EFs is prone to the problem of task-impurity, but the authors addressed it by using the latent-variable approach.

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Miyake and Friedman (2012) drew four general conclusions concerning the issue of individual differences in EFs. The first one indicated that individual differences in EFs are diverse but unified as proposed by Teuber in 1972. Second, the authors concluded that individual differences in EFs are subject to genetic contributions, specifically at the level of latent variables. The third conclusion held that individual differences in societal and clinical set-ups could be predicted using cognitive measures of EFs. Finally, the authors concluded that individual differences in EFs have a certain degree of stability in the course of development. Future research directions, according to the article, should focus on the unity/diversity model to simulate EF tasks and manipulate model parameters to understand the concept better.

The article, “Executive Functions”, by Diamond (2013) explores the core elements of EFs, such as inhibition, self-control, interference control, working memory, and the concept of cognitive flexibility. The author discusses how each element progresses and presents during the development process. According to the author, EFs are important in virtually every aspect of life including mental and physical health, school readiness and success, career progression, public safety, and marital harmony among other areas. Diamond (2013) argues that all elements of EFs work together to create a higher-order EF known as fluid intelligence, which is the capacity to reason, solve problems, and draw patterns through both deductive and inductive logical reasons.

The article indicates that EFs could be improved through practice and training as highlighted in the available literature on the subject. Therefore, children should be taught about executive functioning at a very young age to improve their chances of lifelong achievements. However, sometimes EFs can work against optimal performance, thus individuals should be careful when applying the same in decision-making. The author closes the article by asking different questions to shape future research on the subject of EFs.

In the article, “Working Memory and Executive Attention: A Revisit”, Engle (2018) advances the notion that execution attention or the capacity to control one’s attention plays a central role in the development of fluid intelligence and working memory. In this continuum of EFs, working memory works primarily to store or maintain information while fluid intelligence works by discarding information that is no longer useful. In light of new information and techniques for learning EFs, the author corrects some of the arguments that he had made concerning the subject in 2002.

For instance, in 2002, he argued that individual differences in working memory capacity (WMC) are directly linked as causes of fluid intelligence. However, this assumption was wrong because studies used at that time were based on quasi-experimental models with numerous confounding factors. Current studies show that WMC may not be an underlying factor of fluid intelligence when undertaking some tasks, such as comprehension reading. In other cases, WMC plays a bigger role than fluid intelligence, especially in multitasking.

Themes that Connect to Baars and Cage

Gage and Baars (2018) agree with Engle (2018) that paying attention, which the former term as “voluntary attention”, to certain tasks is central to the development of working memory and fluid intelligence. Diamond (2013) supports this argument by listing self-control as one of the many building blocks of higher order EF or fluid intelligence. Gage and Baars (2018) also highlight the theme of inhibition as part of self-control when dealing with EFs.

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According to them, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) inhibits the frontal lobe processes, thus allowing an individual to avoid making unreasonable decisions. Diamond (2013) terms this phenomenon as inhibitory control whereby person has the capacity to control thoughts and behavior to the extent of overriding internal or external influences in decision-making. Miyake and Friedman (2012) also explore the concept of inhibition in their article. According to them, response inhibition is the ability to focus on set goals without letting internal or external distractions interfere with the process. Additionally, Gage and Baars (2018) address the importance of developing EFs at a young age, which is consistent with Diamond’s (2013) arguments.

Arising Questions

  1. What are some of the emerging models that could be used to understand the genetic or biological factors affecting EFs? This question arises from Miyake and Friedman’s article and it is important in future research as it offers a way of addressing gaps in understanding the neural and genetic mechanism underpinning individual differences in EFs.
  2. Based on Diamond (2013) argument that EF training mostly benefits individual with poor EFs, would such training be used to reduce social disparities given that children from disadvantaged backgrounds have poor EFs? This question is relevant in future research because social disparities affect quality of life, and if such a serious issue could be addressed through training, it is worth pursuing the idea.
  3. What are some of the confounding factors when studying the relationship between WMC and fluid intelligence? This question arises from Engle’s article because in 2018, the author refuted some of the claims he made in 2012 concerning this matter based on new information, thus understanding the relationship between the two would be an important addition to the current literature.


Diamond, A. (2013). Executive functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135-168.

Engle, R. W. (2018). Working memory and executive attention: A revisit. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13, 190-193.

Gage, N. M., & Baars, B. J. (2018). Fundamentals of cognitive neuroscience: A beginner’s guide (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: Academic Press.

Miyake, A., & Friedman, N. P. (2012). The nature and organization of individual differences in executive functions: Four general conclusions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 8-14.

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